The sister of one of the Cardiff car crash victims says she was “disappointed” with the police response to the incident, saying detectives “should have acted straight away”.
Eve Smith, 21, Darcy Ross, 21, and Rafel Jeanne, 24, died in the crash, while Sophie Russon, 20, and Shane Loughlin, 32, who were in the same vehicle, are in hospital with serious injuries.
All five were in a Volkswagen Tiguan that came off the A48(M) in the Welsh capital and crashed into trees.
Ffion Actie, the sister of Rafel, told Sky News she feels “disappointed that maybe things weren’t done sooner”.
She said: “I heard the girls’ mums had contacted [police] but it had taken several hours [to respond]
“I feel they should have acted straight away.”
She added: “I like to think that if [police] got there sooner, it would have been a different outcome.”
Speaking at a vigil for the victims in Cardiff, Ms Actie added: “I felt proud to say [Rafel] was my brother, I’m lost for words. I’m blown away by how many people turned up [to the vigil] and how people have pulled together.
“Social media told me what happened, unfortunately. I feel heartbroken, I feel numb. It doesn’t feel real, I don’t feel like this has happened.”
She described her brother as a “big character, happy, loving, bubbly”.
“He was very popular, a nice man,” she added.
“The hardest thing is that this is such a busy area and the fact they were there so long. That is the worst part about it, thinking they were sat there injured. If it was sooner [they were found], who knows.”
Tuesday night’s vigil saw crowds of people congregate with balloons, flowers and messages, while fireworks were let off to pay tribute to the victims of the crash.
‘There are no words’
Shannon Ridler from Dyffryn, in the Vale of Glamorgan, knew Eve and Darcy’s families and said their loss has been “heartbreaking for everyone”.
She told Sky News: “My heart goes out to everyone – friends, family… also the friends and family of Rafel. I just can’t imagine what they’re all going through and I’m so sorry.”
She added there “are no words” for how difficult the loss has been for the wider community.
“They were well known and loved by everyone.”
Ms Ridler said the community has pulled together “amazingly”.
“Everyone has helped everyone. There’s not one person who hasn’t gone out of their way to do something.”
The group had been to a social club in Maesglas in Newport on Friday night and were believed to have travelled 40 miles to the Trecco Bay area of Porthcawl.
Police have now confirmed they were last seen at around 2am on Saturday in Pentwyn, Cardiff.
Officers believe the car came off the A48(M) a while later, but further investigations using CCTV and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) inquiries are needed to establish an exact time.
They do not believe any other vehicles were involved.
When they failed to return home, their families reported them missing, with the first call being received by police at 7.34pm on Saturday, while further reports were made up until 5.37pm on Sunday.
Hundreds of people took part in searches for the group despite Gwent Police not issuing a public appeal for help until 11pm on Sunday.
Gwent and South Wales Police said in a joint statement that a police helicopter was requested to search an area of Cardiff at 11.50pm on Sunday, which the forces said resulted in the vehicle being found at 12.15am on Monday.
However, members of the friends’ search party Matthew Pace, 45, and his son Lewis, 26, told Sky News they found the car in a wooded area along the A48(M) in the early hours of Monday morning.
Lewis said that he and Mr Jeanne were “best mates”.
“I’m devastated. I can’t cope, I can’t eat. It’s just devastating,” he said.
Matthew said that police arrived “about a minute” after he and Lewis had pulled up by the side of the road after noticing “tyre marks” near the wooded area.
‘Police could have done a lot more’
Meanwhile, Tamzin Samuels, 20, a friend of the young women who died who helped in the search effort, told the PA news agency: “I do think the police could have done a lot more in putting the helicopters out earlier.
“They only posted the appeal an hour before the girls were found. We found them before the police found them – we rang the police.
“The search party found the girls before the police found the girls.
“I think that speaks volumes really, they had all that equipment, and we had cars when we were looking.
“They were really popular girls, the life of the party, and it was really out of character for them to do what they did, which is why we knew something was wrong.”
‘Our thoughts continue to be with the families’
Assistant Chief Constable Jason Davies, of South Wales Police, said: “Our thoughts continue to be with the families and all those affected by this tragic incident.
“Specialist officers are carrying out a detailed investigation to piece together what has happened.
“Family liaison officers are supporting the families involved at what must be a hugely difficult time for them.”
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hoborough, of Gwent Police, also expressed his sympathies and asked the public to refrain from speculation while the force continued to support the investigation.